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Wednesday
Jun222011

Teen Recovering After Police Say Alleged Rapist Attacked Her Again

Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A New York teenager who doctors feared would be paralyzed after allegedly being stabbed several times by the man charged with raping her is improving and will walk again, doctors said Wednesday.

The woman is now moving all her extremities, but "the whole outcome still remains to be seen because she's still critical," said Dario Centorcelli, spokesman for Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens, N.Y.

The mother of the 17-year-old stabbing victim claims the suspect should never have been let out of jail.

Daniel Paguay, 20, was initially jailed last April on charges that he raped the victim, who is a former girlfriend and had a child with Paguay. Paguay was released on $25,000 bail in May, although prosecutors initially asked Queens Supreme Court Justice Stephanie Zaro to set bail at $250,000.

Queens district attorney spokesman Kevin Ryan defended the judge's decision. "In this particular case the defendant is unemployed so $25,000 is a significant amount of money," Ryan said.

The girl's family does not think Paguay should have had a chance at making bail.

"How could [Paguay] be out?" demanded Evelia Leon, the 41-year-old mother of the stabbing victim, in an interview with the New York Daily News. "He's crazy. Who would stab someone like that, especially the mother of his son?"

Raquel Singh, executive director of the Voices of Women Organizing Project, an initiative of the Battered Women's Resource Center in New York, said judges and other officials "don't tend to take domestic violence seriously enough to bring the abusers to justice."

Paguay was charged with breaking into her bedroom June 11 and rummaging through her paperwork. The victim's roommate told prosecutors she confronted him and he ran.

The alleged stabbing occurred Monday. Gabriel Calle, Paguay's cousin who is now dating the victim, told prosecutors he saw Paguay chase the girl down a street in Queens. Calle told prosecutors Paguay held her in a choke hold, threatening her with a large knife.

Calle said he struggled with Paguay and ended up with several knife cuts on his arm. Then Paguay allegedly stabbed the girl several times in the back after dragging her into a nearby grocery store. She was brought to the hospital in cardiac arrest, and at the time she was paralyzed from the waist down.

The Legal Aid attorney who represented Paguay after he was charged with rape declined to comment, saying Paguay has now hired his own attorney for the new charges.

Paguay faces up to 25 years for attempted murder and 15 years for burglary.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun222011

TSA to Change Pat Down Procedure for Children

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has come under fire for security pat downs given to small children, and now the agency says changes will be made.

"As part of our ongoing effort to get smarter about security, Administrator [John] Pistole has made a policy decision to give security officers more options for resolving screening anomalies with young children and we are working to operationalize his decision in airports," said TSA spokesman Nicholas Kimball. "This decision will ultimately reduce -- though not eliminate -- pat downs of children."

Some argue the pat downs are too invasive.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun222011

US Airways Allows Man in Underwear to Fly

US Air(SAN FRANCISCO) -- At a time when airport behavior is closely scrutinized for anything unusual, passengers on a recent US Airways flight were surprised to find a fellow traveler dressed only in a blue bra and underwear, a sheer white sweater, black platform heels and stockings. The passenger was a man.

Jill Tarlow, an Arizona woman who was on board the June 9 flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Phoenix sent a photo of the unidentified passenger to the San Francisco Chronicle. She said that despite other passengers' complaints regarding the man's attire, he was allowed to board.

US Airways declined comment to ABC News, but spokeswoman Valerie Wunder told the Chronicle that employees acted correctly by not removing the man from the flight.

The incident came just days before 20-year-old University of New Mexico football player Deshon Marman made headlines when he was booted off a US Airways flight after airline personnel approached him about his pants sagging too low. Marman was arrested on June 15 after being told to get off the plane. He claims that his pajama bottoms were loose, but that just the top of his underwear were in public view.

Veteran flight attendant Mark Gentile, currently a US Airways union rep for the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA MEC, said that this case of the lingerie-wearing man is "certainly one of the most bizarre."

"I could see how someone could take offense to it because you're sitting inches away from someone on an aircraft and people respect their privacy and don't want to have that invaded," he said.

Gentile, who has been a flight attendant for 34 years, said that passengers behaving in bizarre ways is not uncommon.

"I'm surprised there aren't books written on the situations that occur...I don't think you could dream up this particular one," he said, recalling a time in his career when he witnessed a man try to use a closet as a bathroom on a redeye flight. "There's always something new that comes up."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun222011

Casey Anthony Trial: No Sign Car Held Caylee's Body, Expert Says

Orange County Government, Florida(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- A forensic chemist testifying in the Casey Anthony trial said Wednesday that the car belonging to the Florida mom accused of murdering 2-year-old daughter Caylee did not test positive for human decomposition.

Michael Sigman, a chemist at the National Center for Forensic Science, said that air samples from Casey Anthony's car trunk tested positive mainly for gasoline. Chloroform and two other chemicals were present.

"I could not conclusively determine that the presence of those compounds indicated that there had been human remains in the trunk of that car," Sigman told jurors.

Casey Anthony, 25, is accused of murdering Caylee in the summer of 2008. She could face the death penalty if convicted.

The prosecution has argued that Caylee died from chloroform and duct tape placed over her nose and mouth. The defense argues that she actually drowned in the family pool on June 16, 2008, 31 days before she was reported missing.

Sigman's testimony casts shadow over the prosecution's star witness, Dr. Arpad Vass. Vass testified earlier this month that the trunk of Casey Anthony's car had an abundance of chloroform, a sign of human decomposition and a chemical that also can be used to commit murder.

Sigman originally collected air samples from the Pontiac Sunfire's trunk in July 2008. One of his air samples was sent to Vass to analyze. Sigman then analyzed another sample on his own.

"The results of that test were consistent with the presence of gasoline," Sigman said.

Sigman collected five more air samples from the car's trunk using different methodologies to concentrate the sample. Those samples showed gasoline, chloroform, and two other chemicals.

Sigman said chloroform is frequently found in bleach.

Upon cross examination, Sigman said that the methodologies he used to analyze the samples were not as thorough as the method used by Vass.

Sigman told prosecutors that Casey Anthony's trunk did smell, but because he doesn't study human decomposition, he couldn't say the car reeked of death.

During Wednesday's abbreviated hearing, the defense continued to focus on scientific evidence.

An FBI toxicologist said that hair samples from Caylee's skull did not test positive for xanax, valium, the so-called "date rape" drug, and six other drugs. The hair was not tested for chloroform. The toxicologist acknowledged that testing hair is not the best way to see if someone was drugged.

The continual focus on forensic evidence has done little to shed light on the defense's opening statements that Caylee drowned and George Anthony, Casey Anthony's father, helped dispose of the body.

On Tuesday, the prosecution revealed that a onetime jailhouse neighbor of Casey Anthony had come forward who had a story similar to Casey Anthony's defense.

April Whalen was assigned to a cell next to Casey Anthony for five days in 2009. Whalen's 15-month-old son, Isaiah, accidentally drowned in the family pool during a Christmas celebration in 2007. Whalen's father, Lynn Whalen, called 911.

Lynn Whalen told ABC News on Tuesday that he believed his daughter had talked to Casey Anthony while they were in jail together.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun222011

California Woman Arrested for Allegedly Microwaving Baby to Death

Comstock/Thinkstock(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- A California woman was arrested Tuesday for allegedly microwaving her six-week-old daughter to death, shocking even the most seasoned police detectives who conducted a three-month investigation to determine such a rare cause of death.

"We had never seen a crime this unique and disturbing," Sgt. Norm Leong of the Sacramento County Police Department told ABC News.

Fire officials responded to the residence of Ka Yang, 29, on March 17. A relative who had returned home called the department after noticing burns on baby Mirabelle Thao-Lo.

Yang initially told fire authorities she suffered a seizure and had dropped her daughter, who died at the scene, according to officials.

"It was clear the child was burned but the source was mysterious," Sgt. Leong said.

An autopsy conducted by the Sacramento County coroner found the child had deep tissue burns, although the source of the burns remained unclear.

"The burns were not typical of fire or acid injuries and there was damage to the baby's clothing," he added.

Detectives thought something was peculiar and spent the next three months investigating the case. "Early on, we did speculate it was possible the baby had been put in the microwave," Leong said.

Detectives turned to Google and found three similar cases involving newborns being placed in microwaves in Ohio, Texas and Virginia.

They studied the cases and met with medical professionals, forensic specialists and government agencies.

After the research, it became clear that Mirabelle's injuries were consistent with the kind of burns caused from being placed in a microwave, officials said.

Yang was arrested without incident Tuesday and is being held in Sacramento County Jail. She will be arraigned Thursday.

Yang was alone in the home with Mirabelle at the time of the incident, Sgt. Leong said, although a relative was outside doing yard work.

The baby's father lived with the family but was not home at the time of the incident, police said.

Police said they've been unable to pinpoint a motive and declined to say whether Yang was cooperating.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun222011

Award-Winning Journalist Comes Out as Illegal Immigrant

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- For the past decade, Jose Antonio Vargas has pursued success in journalism. In addition to winning a Pulitzer Prize with the Washington Post for his coverage of the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, he has also covered a variety of topics including presidential politics, and even scored an exclusive interview with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Throughout all of his early success, however, Vargas harbored a huge secret: he was living and working in the United States illegally.

"I wasn't supposed to be there. I wasn't supposed to be walking with Mark Zuckerberg. I wasn't supposed to be interviewing Romney's sons. Why was I doing it? Because I wanted to survive. I wanted to live. I wanted to earn what it means to be an American," Vargas told ABC News.

One morning when he was a 12-year-old boy living in the Philippines, Vargas says his mother took him to the airport -- and sent him to America. He arrived in Mountain View, Calif., in the heart of Silicon Valley, where he lived with his grandparents, and soon became a standout student at the local high school.

He says he spent the next four years in the dark about his citizenship status, only realizing the truth when he rode his bike to the Department of Motor Vehicles, where like his friends he wanted to apply for a driver's permit. But Vargas says the DMV told him that his green card was a fake, and warned him not to return.

After peddling home, Vargas confronted his grandfather, who finally told him the truth: he was in the U.S. illegally. It was the first moment of what would become an elaborate life of secrets, lies and ever-present fear.

"I remember the very first instinct was, okay, that's it, get rid of the accent...Because I just thought to myself, you know, I couldn't give anybody any reason to ever doubt that I'm an American," Vargas said.

After furiously studying American movies to shed his accent, he eventually discovered journalism. One motivating factor for Vargas was that if his name appeared at the top of articles, he felt it was less likely that anyone would question his immigration status.

He says he was able to land his early reporting gigs by using a doctored Social Security card his grandfather had obtained for him. But in his early 20s he got a job offer from the Washington Post -- and they told him they needed to see a driver's license.

Vargas managed to obtain one in the state of Oregon, where the laws are more relaxed, by faking documents. He received help in this process by Rich Fischer and Pat Hyland, two high-ranking public school officials in his town, with whom he had become very close during high school.

"You have to do what you have to do," Vargas said. "I wanted to work. I wanted to prove that I was worthy of being here...and I was gonna do whatever it took to prove that."

Vargas was able to obtain the license, and his career quickly took off -- with no one knowing his citizenship status. At one point he was even able to get into the White House using his fake license to cover a state dinner.

Yet after all of these years, Vargas is now outing himself as one of the millions in the United States who are living in the country illegally. He is aware of the danger he is putting himself in, and that he could be sent back to the Philippines.

Vargas says that he made up his mind last December when Congress failed to pass the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act, a bill that would allow illegal immigrants who came to this country as children to become citizens, if they go to college or serve in the military.

To shine a light on a massive problem, Vargas will be starting an online campaign at defineamerican.com to push for passage of the DREAM Act, which is currently stalled in Congress.

The critics of the DREAM Act say that it will reward undocumented parents, and that it would be an open invitation to fraud, giving an incentive to parents in other countries to come to the U.S. illegally with their children.

"Are we seriously going to deport 11 million people?" Vargas asks. "That's the estimated number of undocumented people in this country. We're not seriously going to do that. We have not had a really serious conversation about this issue. We are a part of this society. And I think everyone deserves dignity," he added.

His goal now is to change a law while changing the outlook of thousands of children whose dream is to become citizens.

"You can call me whatever you want to call me, but I am an American," Vargas said. "No one can take that away from me. No, no one can."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun222011

Suspect Arrested in New York Pharmacy Murder

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A suspect has been arrested and taken into custody in connection with the execution-style slaying of four people during a prescription drug robbery at a pharmacy in Suffolk County, New York on Sunday.

The suspect is being questioned by police.

No charges have yet been filed.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun222011

Streets Around White House Locked Down for Suspicious Truck

Comstock/ThinkstockUPDATE: The vehicle in question was cleared and no hazards were found. At the White House, reporters have been given the all clear. Reporters are now free to move about and construction crews are back at work on the "Big Dig" on the North Lawn.

(WASHINGTON) -- All car and pedestrian traffic was stopped for several blocks in a perimeter around the White House on Wednesday morning as law enforcement inspected a dump truck there.

The Secret Service tells ABC News that a canine team "alerted"authorities while inspecting a dump truck that was scheduled to come into the construction complex on the White House north lawn. The north lawn has been under construction for nearly a year -- and any vehicle or person doing work there is inspected at each entrance.

No reporters were allowed access to the White House's north lawn during this inspection. Usually television reporters at the White House keep their cameras on the north lawn and report live from there throughout the day.

The closing extends along H Street, from 7th to 15th Street, and includes Lafayette Park across the street from the White House -- an unusually wide berth for this situation.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun222011

Planes Narrowly Avoid Collision at New York's JFK Airport

Goodshot/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Federal aviation officials are investigating after two planes nearly collided on the runway at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on Monday.

A Lufthansa jumbo jet carrying 286 passengers was speeding for takeoff, approaching 180 miles per hour, when an EgyptAir plane -- capable of carrying 346 people -- took a wrong turn onto its runway.

The Luftansa pilots had to slam on the breaks -- stopping so hard, they worried the aircraft's brakes had become dangerously overheated.

The Lufthansa flight eventually took off and arrived safely in Munich.

Sources tell the New York Post it appears the EgyptAir crew simply took a wrong turn.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun222011

International Billboard Research Trip 'Ridiculous,' Watchdog Says

The White House/Lawrence Jackson(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama administration has ordered a halt to a decade-long, multi-million dollar program that sent bureaucrats around the world to study foreign highways, but not before one group of officials completes an on-going taxpayer-funded foreign jaunt.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said late Tuesday he was suspending the program "while [he] personally reviews the way taxpayer dollars have been spent."

"The president has been clear: We must get rid of stupid spending and pointless waste," LaHood said in an emailed statement to ABC News. "Each taxpayer dollar is precious, and there is no excuse for wasting a single one.  That's why...I have suspended this program."

But LaHood's order came while a group of transportation officials was already abroad and that group plans to continue their itinerary -- studying pavement -- while LaHood studies the value of the program.  The group will return June 26, as scheduled, officials said.

"Taxpayers certainly should be outraged that their money is being spent on this type of activity when our roads are falling part, gas taxes and prices are at an all-time high," Tom Schatz, President of Citizens Against Government Waste, said on ABC's Good Morning America. "It really is a ridiculous use of our money."

The initiative, known as the International Scan Program, has been sending federal and state transportation employees to popular foreign tourist destinations for the past decade with the goal of studying how other countries handle the challenges of running major highway networks.  Other trips have been planned to study such issues as motorcycle safety, managing pavement, precast concrete, and adapting to climate change.

But the program began prompting questions in recent weeks, as members of Congress learned that a group of transportation officials traveled around the globe -- a nine city tour that took them to Australia, Sweden, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Great Britain -- in order to prepare a 76-page report about policies for dealing with billboard advertising.

Photos from the trip obtained by ABC News show some of the 12-member delegation toasting with wine glasses in Australia and driving the tulip-lined highways of Holland.  Travel records show the group secured luxury accommodations and ate in only the best eateries.  In Melbourne, that meant dining along the waterfront at the pricey Scusami Italian Restaurant, in Brisbane, the LAB Restaurant, in Stockholm, the five-star Fem Sma House.

The cost of the 17-day trip for bureaucrats to study billboards? Roughly $300,000, according to estimates the administration provided to Congress.  (Transportation officials said roughly $40,000 of that covered the expenses of the three federal workers on the trip.)

The program has been sending groups of federal and state workers on similar trips as often as four times a year for the past decade, at a total cost of nearly $12 million.

A transportation official said Tuesday night that the decision had been made weeks ago to include it in future cuts, and was not in response to ABC News questions.

Scott Amey, general counsel for the Project on Government Oversight, was also surprised by the extent of travel the Federal Highway Administration had engaged in, especially in an age when a great deal can be accomplished by teleconference and the Internet.

"I certainly think there's a waste of money here that this program needs to be tightened up, needs to be investigated," he said Tuesday.  "I think this is the type of foreign travel that should be grounded."

ABC News first contacted the Federal Highway Administration on Monday evening after obtaining a copy of a letter that House Republicans sent to the department late last week.

"We recognize that our transportation system can benefit from understanding best practices abroad," the June 17 letter to LaHood says.  "But we are unable to justify to the voters in our districts such spending in the face of rising gasoline prices and federal deficits."

The letter is signed by Reps. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), Jason Altmire (D-Pa.), Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), John Carter (R-Texas), Lou Barletta (R-Pa.), Steve Southerland (R-Fl.) and Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.).

U.S. Transportation officials said the program has been co-financed with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation officials, and that it has produced some victories for taxpayers in the past.  For instance, one trip to study prefabricated bridge technologies contributed to accelerated bridge replacement in a number of locations, with some jurisdictions reporting savings as a result.

LaHood sent his statement to ABC News Tuesday evening, saying he did not believe it met the strict test the administration is using to evaluate spending programs.

"From the outset of this administration, I have urged agency personnel to be judicious and cost-conscious in the use of official travel and we will not tolerate any abuse of the public trust," he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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